Virtually there

Just spotted Virtually There, an essay by Peter White and Naomi Rosh White, from First Mondays October issue. Makes the point that virtual travel redefines the nature of travel as well as imitating it.

After analysing how people continue to communicate, as they travel, with friends at home, the essay points out that:
(a)”continued communication with their networks of contacts were integral to the travel experience. Communications technologies were used … to maintain an ongoing symbolic proximity or co–presence with people who shared a common history and mutual experiences.”
(b) “both people ‘back home’ and travellers are involved in forms of ‘virtual travel.’ In other words, the extension of horizons occurs for those left at home through the continuous contact with travellers and through communication about travel experiences. In addition, a reciprocal extension occurs for travellers as well…. this travel consists of intermittent journeying back to the sites and relationships at ‘home’.”

So the revolution in portable communications has not only made travel a different experience for the traveller, but also for his or her contacts. Compare the epic journeys of a hundred years ago – Shackleton lost for two years in the Antarctic, during which no-one kne if he was alive or dead.

This is a perceptive and itnersting essay. In one way it hasnt got much to do with simulation: in another it suggests that I may be wrong to contrast real and virtual (or simulated) travel: maybe they are getting closer to each other, two ends of a spectrum rather than two different states. Real lonely travel (eg Shackleton) is difficult to achieve these days, and mostly we wouldnt like it if we did.

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